Knights vs. Monks: Heck yeah!

The trio with the dashing name went into the North Woods to record with a '60s underground rock legend.

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Greg Mills, Gary Burger, Joe Hastings and Joe Holland.

Funny thing: In their continuing pursuit of the ultimate garage-rock sound, Greg (GD) Mills and his band got out of the garage and headed deep into the woods north of Bemidji. They even stayed in an RV camper while they were recording.

"It was more like a weekend getaway than a recording session," recounted Mills, singer and drummer of the band whose name I'm waiting to mention until at least the fourth paragraph (to avoid attention from our more prudish editors).

Even funnier: The guy who helmed the sessions, a 67-year-old former G.I. named Gary Burger, happened to be the mayor of the small city nearest to the sessions, Turtle River, population 75. You can bet that he, too, tried to keep the name of Mills' band under wraps to certain people.

The end results of this quizzical equation is a blasting, heated, deliciously dirty-sounding new four-song collection clumsily titled, "The Recorded by Gary Burger From the Monks EP." It's the latest and greatest offering by the F--- Knights. There, said it. Sort of.

A howling, hard-thumping, scrappy punk trio with one of the best drummers in town (never mind he's also the main singer), the Knights have been tearing it up around the scene over the past year and a half, playing everywhere from the Deep Blues Fest to indie-rocky block parties. They take over the Hexagon Bar on Thursday to tout the "Gary Burger" EP and kick off a tour.

Mills formed the trio not long after arriving in town from New York City to attend Minneapolis College of Art & Design. The band name was essentially a bad joke, but it turned out to have a useful quality. Said Mills, "We've sort of learned that any venue that rejects us because of it is a place we wouldn't want to play anyway."

The Monks, a howling, hard-thumping, scrappy proto-punk quintet with one of the most revered albums from the original garage-band era (never mind that it was their only album), were formed by American servicemen stationed in Germany in the mid-'60s, including Burger. The band stayed together only a couple of years, but decades later their music has been cited by the White Stripes, Beastie Boys and the Fall as an influence.

"They were sort of the anti-Beatles, one of the first bands to be making music strictly as an art form and without any commercial aspirations," said Mills.

The F--- Knights met the singer of the Monks by chance one night last year at Lee's Liquor Lounge, where Knights bassist Joe Holland is the booker and sometimes-soundman. At Burger's urging, they sent him some songs, and he invited them up in July to his studio, where he also runs a video production company.

"I was amazed how much sound they can make with such a little set-up," said Burger, who helped them lay all the tracks and master them in less than three days.

Mills said Burger pushed them musically but also maintained a laid-back atmosphere where they "didn't feel like we were watching the clock, unlike most sessions." Though they weren't specifically going for any kind of vintage, the songs "F.M. Eyes" or "Baby Get Lost" could easily be mistaken for lost tracks from the "Nuggets" box set. Said Mills, "It just happens to be the style of music that comes out, probably because that's mostly what we listen to."

Burger said he's not one for nostalgia, but "I think it's righteous for the Monks to have bands like these guys trying to prove what we couldn't prove in the '60s. I'm all for it."

As for the name, the mayor admitted it was a little troublesome for him, too.

"Oh, yeah, I told a few people I was working with a band called 'the Knights,' and left it at that," he said.

Pens know 'Limitations'

If the curse of City Pages' Picked to Click poll held true, last year's winners the Red Pens should be broken up or playing experimental dreck nobody wants to hear, now that Pink Mink has taken over the title. The noise-pop duo of Howard Hamilton and Laura Bennett are still at it, and they have a new EP to prove it -- not just any EP, either, but a six-song collection that is top-to-bottom better than their full-length debut (a favorite of mine from last year).

Simply put, Hamilton has turned into a fuzz-pedal guitar god. It's evident from the get-go as he wheels out a windmill-in-a-hurricane intro to the title track, "Limitations." His real breakthrough is in the wicked instrumental "Far Off," a Link Wray-like surf-rock juggernaut. Throw in the snarling, hard-pounding but still melodic gems "Taco Cha Cha" and "Good Luck Charm" -- each coated with more glorious guitar work -- and the Pens are clicking the way a bullet-train clicks.

Random mix

Red House Records president Eric Peltoniemi has organized a relief concert for his tornado-ravaged hometown of Wadena, Minn., scheduled Nov. 14 at the Medina Entertainment Center with music by the White Iron Band and Backseat Boogie Band. The event will be catered and include loads of auction items. Tickets are $40 and can be bought via www.WadenaRelief.org, where donations can also be made. Said Peltoniemi, "On my first visit after the storm, I was stunned by the damage. The need there is so great. ... "

Cloud Cult painter/trumpeter Scott West became a full-time starving artist during the lull before the group's newest album, and he has a new exhibit to show for it called "Still" at Tarnish & Gold gallery in northeast Minneapolis. It's West's first full solo show, and the pieces demonstrate what the guy can do when he has longer than a typical band set time to paint them. Opening party is Saturday with music by the Wapsipinicon, bassist Shawn Neary's project (6-10 p.m., 1511 NE. Marshall St.). The gallery also will screen the Cloud Cult documentary "No One Said It Would Be Easy" at 6 p.m. Thursday. Both events are free. ... Indie-pop darlings Now, Now Every Children have shortened their name to Now, Now in time for the release of their new EP, a self-recorded collection called "Neighbors," due Dec. 9 on California label No Sleep Records. ...

Owl City isn't the only big shot helping out his old school. Brother Ali has booked an all-ages New Year's Eve show at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis to raise money for the music program at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. Tickets ($30-$150) are on sale at www.VegaProductions.org. Unless this week's winning candidates stick to their promises, Minnesota schools might need help funding their music programs for many years, so bravo to the many musicians stepping up to do so.

chrisr@startribune.com • 612-673-4658 • Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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  • F--- KNIGHTS

    With: Cadillac Kolstad, Bootstraps of Doom, Scissor Legs.

    When: 9 p.m. Thu.

    Where: Hexagon Bar, 2600 27th Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: Free. 21 & older. 612-722-3454

    HEAR

    samples from the "Gary Burger" EP at startribune.com/music

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